If men like you and I speak openly at first, all possible misunderstanding is avoided. Why should I disguise what you know so well, but what the crowd never dream of? We companies are all birds of prey; mere birds of prey. The only question is, whether in serving our own turn, we can serve yours too; whether in double-lining our own nest, we can put a single living into yours. Oh, you're in our secret. You're behind the scenes. We'll make a merit of dealing plainly with you, when we know we can't help it.'
It was remarked, on the first introduction of Mr Jonas into these pages, that there is a simplicity of cunning no less than a simplicity of innocence, and that in all matters involving a faith in knavery, he was the most credulous of men. If Mr Tigg had preferred any claim to high and honourable dealing, Jonas would have suspected him though he had been a very model of probity; but when he gave utterance to Jonas's own thoughts of everything and everybody, Jonas began to feel that he was a pleasant fellow, and one to be talked to freely.
He changed his position in the chair, not for a less awkward, but for a more boastful attitude; and smiling in his miserable conceit rejoined:
'You an't a bad man of business, Mr Montague. You know how to set about it, I WILL say.'
'Tut, tut,' said Tigg, nodding confidentially, and showing his white teeth; 'we are not children, Mr Chuzzlewit; we are grown men, I hope.'
Jonas assented, and said after a short silence, first spreading out his legs, and sticking one arm akimbo to show how perfectly at home he was,
'The truth is--'
'Don't say, the truth,' interposed Tigg, with another grin. 'It's so like humbug.'
Greatly charmed by this, Jonas began again.
'The long and the short of it is--'
'Better,' muttered Tigg. 'Much better!'
'--That I didn't consider myself very well used by one or two of the old companies in some negotiations I have had with 'em--once had, I mean. They started objections they had no right to start, and put questions they had no right to put, and carried things much too high for my taste.'
As he made these observations he cast down his eyes, and looked curiously at the carpet. Mr Tigg looked curiously at him.
He made so long a pause, that Tigg came to the rescue, and said, in his pleasantest manner:
'Take a glass of wine.'
'No, no,' returned Jonas, with a cunning shake of the head; 'none of that, thankee. No wine over business. All very well for you, but it wouldn't do for me.'
'What an old hand you are, Mr Chuzzlewit!' said Tigg, leaning back in his chair, and leering at him through his half-shut eyes.
Jonas shook his head again, as much as to say, 'You're right there;' And then resumed, jocosely:
'Not such an old hand, either, but that I've been and got married. That's rather green, you'll say. Perhaps it is, especially as she's young. But one never knows what may happen to these women, so I'm thinking of insuring her life. It is but fair, you know, that a man should secure some consolation in case of meeting with such a loss.'
'If anything can console him under such heart-breaking circumstances,' murmured Tigg, with his eyes shut up as before.
'Exactly,' returned Jonas; 'if anything can. Now, supposing I did it here, I should do it cheap, I know, and easy, without bothering her about it; which I'd much rather not do, for it's just in a woman's way to take it into her head, if you talk to her about such things, that she's going to die directly.'
'So it is,' cried Tigg, kissing his hand in honour of the sex. 'You're quite right. Sweet, silly, fluttering little simpletons!'
'Well,' said Jonas, 'on that account, you know, and because offence has been given me in other quarters, I wouldn't mind patronizing this Company. But I want to know what sort of security there is for the Company's going on. That's the--'
'Not the truth?' cried Tigg, holding up his jewelled hand. 'Don't use that Sunday School expression, please!'
'The long and the short of it,' said Jonas.